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Hanzal helps Coyotes overpower Blue Jackets

by Jerry Brown /

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Center Martin Hanzal didn't feel very good before or after the Arizona Coyotes' game Saturday.

But during the game, the Columbus Blue Jackets were the ones feeling the pain.

Hanzal tied a career with four points, scoring a goal and assisting on three others during an 18-minute span of the second and third periods, helping the Arizona Coyotes to a 6-3 win against the Blue Jackets at Gila River Arena. All of Hanzal's points came close to the crease, where the big center from the Czech Republic spent his night screening, scrapping and otherwise annoying Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

"Marty was under the weather before the game and didn't play as many minutes as usual (14:01), but he still came up with four points," Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. "He has a hard job in front, but if you're picked to do it you have to hang in there and it's expected."

Hanzal's linemate Sam Gagner had two goals and an assist, and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson contributed a goal and an assist during a run of five unanswered goals that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 6-2 lead. Goalie Mike Smith won his first game since Dec. 1 with 23 saves and an offense that made things easy.

"It's been a pretty good year so far," Smith jokingly said of 2015, a year he was eager to see after finishing the 2014 portion of the schedule with a 5-15-2 record. "I understand where I've been and where I need to go and it's one game, but hopefully I can take the feeling I had tonight and take it into the next practice and next game.

"That was by far one of our best games of the year. We were just swarming all over the ice and didn't give them much space."

Tobias Rieder and Kyle Chipchura each had a goal and an assist, and defenseman Keith Yandle had two assists for the Coyotes (15-19-4), who have won four straight games at home after losing a franchise-record nine straight in their own building. Overall, the Coyotes have won four of their past five.

Ekman-Larsson, Hanzal and Ganger all scored on the power play for Arizona, which had 10 power-play goals in 18 home games before scoring three straight in a span of 18:33, getting the best of a Columbus power-play unit that ranks No. 1 in the NHL.

Fedor Tyutin, James Wisniewski and Ryan Johansen scored for the Blue Jackets (16-17-3), who were 10-1-1 in December but lost their first game of 2015. Bobrovsky allowed six goals on 31 shots before being lifted in the third period and lost for the second time since Nov. 29.

"This surprised me," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "When you look at the success and the reason why you are winning games based on how you battle and compete … tonight it wasn't there. They won battles, we lost battles and they ended up spending more time in our zone. They started to skate and smother us."

The Coyotes took an early lead when Rieder, who was the best player on the ice in the first period, cashed in on a fortunate bounce. Lauri Korpikoski missed the net from the left circle but the puck caromed off the end boards and out to the opposite post, where Rieder was parked. He swept in a backhander from a tough angle at 13:17 for his fourth goal of the season and first since scoring two shorthanded goals on the same shift on Dec. 1 against Edmonton.

Smith, playing for the first time since allowing four goals on 11 shots in a 7-1 loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Dec. 22, made eight saves in the first period but ran into trouble quickly thanks to Coyotes penalties early in the second.

Just after a penalty to Arizona's Connor Murphy expired, Tyutin's shot from the left point eluded Smith at 2:35. It was the defenseman's first goal in 60 games; he last scored more than a year ago, on Dec. 16, 2013, against the Winnipeg Jets.

A high-sticking penalty to Martin Erat put Columbus right back on the power play. Brandon Dubinsky hit Wisniewski in the left circle, and he had plenty of time to pick a corner and beat Smith to the glove side with a hard wrist shot at 4:39. Wisniewski's third goal of the season was Columbus' 31st on the power play and gave the Blue Jackets their first lead at 2-1.

But Arizona dominated the game from there, chasing Bobrovsky and turning a tight game into a rout. Hanzal was in the middle of the action, most of which took place in the Columbus crease.

Rieder drew a hooking penalty from Dalton Prout and the Arizona power play answered. Bobrovsky stopped Yandle from the point and Hanzal on the rebound, but lost sight of the puck behind him in the crease. Ekman-Larsson dashed in, won the race for the puck and banged it home at 6:33, ducking to barely miss the crossbar as he rolled into the net.

Ekman-Larsson's 10th goal was his seventh in the past 14 games and tied him with center Antoine Vermette for the team lead. He has seven power-play goals, tops among NHL defensemen.

"I saw the puck laying there and I went to the net pretty hard," Ekman-Larsson said. "I should get two goals for that one. I almost hit my head on that one."

The tide really turned when Bobrovsky lost his goal stick in the crease and Johansen tried to toss his stick to the goalie, drawing a penalty. Hanzal was in the slot to collect Ekman-Larsson's rebound and kicked it to Gagner at the side of the net for a put away to give Arizona the lead for good at 18:33.

Hanzal added one himself 44 seconds later, stuffing the rebound of Gagner's shot under Bobrovsky to make it 4-2. Chipchura and Gagner scored 2:34 apart early in the third period to turn the game into a blowout. Johansen scored for Columbus with 60 seconds remaining.

"Just breakdowns all over the ice," Columbus forward Jack Skille said. "We didn't stick to the game plan a majority of the game and we paid for it."

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